Ecosystem Services in Tacoma

Walking through Point Defiance Park on one of Tacoma’s rare sunny days, a visitor will see children playing, joggers and bikers getting fresh air and exercise, and couples enjoying the variety of roses flourishing in the gardens. The scene is one of family bonding and health, but also of extensive economic value.

The parks of Tacoma, run by Metro Parks, provide residents of Tacoma and the surrounding areas with hours of recreation and activity, but also what are called “ecosystem services.” The combination of these two assets make these parks worth millions of dollars, an amount quantified in two reports, one by Metro Parks and the other by Earth Economics.

“Tacoma has high quality parks,” said Zac Christin, a research analyst for Earth Economics and head researcher on the Metro Parks study.

Earth Economics is a nonprofit agency that provides economic analysis of ecosystem services. Their Economic Impact of Metro Parks Ecosystem Services Study found that MPT provides 3.6 million to 13 million in ecosystem services and approximately 18.2 million in social capital, education, and health benefits.

“These services were recognized prior to the report,” said Christin, “The biggest ones are aesthetic and recreational value.”

Parks provide opportunities such as hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, and running. Over half of Metro Parks contain forests and extensive trails. While the research methods to put a dollar amount on the social benefits of open green space are still developing, studies do show that children who are exposed regularly to the outdoors and green spaces do better on tests, and have a lower likelihood of ADHD.  People are also more likely to meet health standards when they live in areas with park amenities.

“People evolved in nature, and if you have nature around you, it keeps you sane,” said Kathy Sutalo, Metro Parks Urban Forester.

Therefore, if a city has exceptional parks, it becomes a more attractive place to live, which reduces suburban sprawl, the converting of useful land into housing. The more people are spread out, the more resources are used, and there is less land available for timely production and farming.

Phase I of the Economic Impact Study, done by Metro Parks itself, demonstrated that Tacoma does indeed have exceptional parks, in comparison to those within surrounding areas. On any given day, two-thirds of the people occupying one of Tacoma’s popular parks are not Tacoma residents. Not only does this add value to the parks themselves, but it generated 27 million last year in money visitors spend within the city.

The value of the parks, however, is not limited to their beauty and appeal. Green spaces provide services that, had the city to pay for them, would cost extensively more than does the maintenance of a well established park.

Washington’s famous evergreen trees are one major reason for this; Tacoma alone has 5,200 trees of various types. They provide shade, which lessens the effects of global warming, they turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, which reduces pollution, and they provide a habitat for various animal species that could not otherwise exist in such a large city.

“Trees are the anchor,” said Sulato. “You are better off with trees and no shrubbery than you are with shrubbery and no trees.”

Maintaining a large diversity of shrubbery and greenery is also important however, because it wards off the development of invasive species. When settlers began developing Tacoma, they cut down most of the trees; when a tree is removed from an urban area native plants were overcome by species such as blackberry and ivy. Native greenery such as grass makes parks the most absorbent areas in the city, regulating storm water, and keeping the city from spending millions to divert it elsewhere.

Once parks, such as Point Defiance, have developed a substantial base of native species, they are able to almost entirely regulate themselves; however, maintaining less developed parks is expensive and hard work. Fortunately, Tacoma has a large force of willing volunteers who, last year alone put in 170,000 hours of volunteer work, generating great worth in social capital, which is the benefits gained by engaging in the community.

Engaging people in the parks is part of why MPT commissioned these studies.

“We want to let people know that parks aren’t just pretty,” said Sutalo.

The studies have helped the city raise awareness of how many amenities parks provide, but the ultimate goal is to help them understand that parks are just as important to a city as streets and sewers.

“We want to make Tacoma the place where benefits are integrated and understood,” said Sutalo.

While the studies helped to make people more aware of what Tacoma does have, it also raises awareness as to what sort of tools are missing.

“It inspires them to recognize what kind of information we still don’t have,” said Roxanne Miles, Community Development Manager.

In the future, she hopes there will be ways to quantify and place economic value upon things such as families playing together and a healthy childhood.

There is a myriad of research to be done in the future. However, for now, what is known is that parks and green spaces hold a high economic value.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

When was the last time you took a day trip? I’d argue that it’s been too long and suggest visiting the Emerald City, better known as Seattle. But how many of us hear the name “Seattle” and immediately think of where to park and how much we’ll have to cough up for gas?

 

As many of you have read, there are plenty of interesting places to visit and fun activities to do in Downtown Tacoma near the UWT campus.

 

But what about all those loyal Ledgerhammers who’ve been following us along and have checked out all these local attractions?

 

The good news is for just $3.50 you can catch the 590 Bus at the bottom of the UWT campus stairs along Pacific Avenue and find yourself at 4th and Pike in Seattle in no time at all. Here is a list of bus times: http://www.soundtransit.org/Schedules/ST-Express-Bus/590 It’s so easy a flying monkey could do it! By being eco-friendly and taking public transit, not only are you saving yourself from the anxiety of seizing a parking spot or the heartbreak of smashing your beloved piggy bank to afford fumes, but you’ll be riding with a clean conscious having left your carbon footprint behind.

 

Whether it’s museum viewing, shopping, grabbing a bite to eat, or enjoying public art, you’ll be able to find it in Downtown Seattle. Once you’ve step off the bus in your ruby red slippers, you’ll be within walking distance of the Seattle Art Museum on 1st Ave. and Westlake Shopping Center onPine Street.

If museum viewing is on the agenda it’s important to remember the museum is closed on Mondays and new hours will start July 1. To learn more about the hours of operation, admission prices (there are free days!), and details about the special exhibits, please visit: www.seattleartmuseum.org Also, for those interested in shopping at Westlake Shopping Center, here is the list of stores: http://www.westlakecenter.com/directory

 

Follow the Cobblestone Road

 

If touring the Seattle Art Museum or shopping at Westlake Shopping Center doesn’t suit your fancy, I highly recommend Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market in Seattleis a must experience / must see. Often times you can smell the fish before you see them, but remain diligent because 12 to 16 pound King Salmon are frequently tossed over the crowd directly under the famous red neon “PublicMarketCenter” sign. You can read all about Pike Placeand the type of shops that call it home on their website: http://pikeplacemarket.org

 

The Gum Wall was once a Seattleside street secret, but now it’s a popular photo destination. I’d say it’s something to go see, but not something to stick to. Pun intended. There’s so much more to see than a wall stacked and layered with used chewing gum. You might notice on your way down to the Gum Wall a petite little café. The quirky thing about this café besides being underground and near a wall infested with gum is that ghost tours are offered.

 

If you’re lingering in Pike Place as the vendors are shutting down and packing up shortly after dusk, you don’t have to go far to feel an eerie or spooky presence. Also, make sure you’ve planned out a return bus time to Tacoma or you’ll be stranded with the spirits of long gone vendors.

 

You will find the original Starbucks along Pike and although it is usually spilling over with eager coffee enthusiasts and tourists which means a long wait and guaranteed invasions of personal space, it is pretty cool to go into the actual shop and feel the history of one of the most popular and successful businesses on display. It all started there…in that small little store…with all that rain.

 

Something new in Downtown Seattle which is gathering a lot of attention and interest is the Ferris wheel on the waterfront. The Seattle Great Wheel can be found at 1301 Alaskan Way and it operates Monday thru Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. with extended weekend hours. You can purchase tickets and read fun facts about the wheel at http://seattlegreatwheel.com/

 

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!

 

Alright, there aren’t lions, tigers, or bears in Downtown Seattle, but there are several novelty shops that feature such beasts in the form of hats and funky knee high socks. Also, I can’t help but mention that the Woodland Park Zoo currently cares for four baby lion cubs born in November and their parents and two brown bears who are brothers, but the tiger exhibit is closed in preparation for building a new enclosure.

 

WhatPike Placedoes have to offer is fresh fruits, and vegetables, and sweets, and tea and spices! Oh, my! Whether you’re in search of a Washington apple or a pineapple, you’ll find it displayed beautifully out front. Vendors often have samples to share with passersby or potential clients. Also, the vegetable displays throughout the market tempt me into becoming a vegetarian. The heads of lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, and tomatoes among other garden delights make you crave a massive salad fit for a king or queen.

 

Eating healthy is made easy when taking a stroll down the main street past the fruits and vegetables. The small shops create senses and impulses that betray your healthy eating mentality. The sight of gelato, ice cream, frozen yogurt, caramel apples, taffy, cotton candy, and the aroma of fudge awake your inner child and alert your sweet tooth. I have to admit that it is nearly impossible to visit Pike Place Market without sampling something sweet and delicious.

 

Another aspect of Pike Place Market and Downtown Seattle is that it’s hard not to share your food discoveries with others and the market provides an excellent environment for gift gathering. The shop Market Spice comes to mind when thinking about sending Northwest-y treats to friends and family afar. Also, you’ll find pottery and blown glass along your market stroll as well. Lastly, one cannot avoid the strikingly luscious bouquets of colorful flowers. The fact of the matter is there is something in Pike Place for everyone.

 

There’s No Place Like Home… There’s No Place Like Home

 

Aren’t we lucky to call the Northwest our home? With the weather getting better and more enjoyable, now is the perfect time to get out and adventure with friends. I listed just a few fun options but there are so many more within the different levels of Pike Place Market not to mention the side streets and waterfront. Don’t even get me started on the shopping around 5th Avenue!

 

Click Your Ruby Slippers

 

To return to Downtown Tacoma you’ll want to catch the 594 Bus on 2nd and Seneca. The trip back to Tacoma will cost $3.50 and the bus will take you to the Tacoma Dome Station which is where you’ll want to get off and catch the light rail back to campus. You’ll want to checkout bus times prior to leaving campus to avoid being stuck in Seattlewithout a way back to Tacoma. You can find the bus schedule at http://www.soundtransit.org So don’t be a cowardly lion and plan yourSeattle trip today!

 

Post yourSeattleday trip photos to Instagram and include the tag #thetacomaledger

 

Special thanks to Rupinder Suman for being my bus buddy.

 

Photos by Kate Harpel with illustrations by Danielle Burch.

Tuition, Parking, and Diversity at ASUWT Elections Debate

ASUWT elections end Friday on May 3rd. A polite and informational debate was held last Tuesday for Executive Board candidates: hopeful ASUWT presidents and vice presidents spoke about their intended goals and issues to focus on, were they to be elected.

Important issues were raised including disability resources, parking, and tuition for international students. Each candidate, three presidential and one vice-president discussed why they decided to run and how they believe themselves to be fit for the job.

Alex Yuly, a Computer Science major, spoke about his compassion working with students, saying his time with ASUWT this year has been “such a great experience, participating and helping out with events. As much as I’ve loved it, I see there’s room for improvement.” He also mentioned key issues he would focus on as president, including a proposed surcharge for international students. “I would very very much oppose [the charge] because international students contribute so much to this campus…they already incur a ton of additional expenses in coming here.”

Yuly explained UW Seattle’s undergraduate diversity requirement, which he would be in favor of as president, which mandating that students take some form of multicultural class or participate in a community event.  Yuly also said that “ensuring that all of campus is fully accessible to everyone” would be a big priority for him, and that “as president, I would complete a walk around tour on campus” to point out problem areas. He said that as president, he would work to restructure ASUWT’s organization to better implement ideas and to further benefit students, keeping the culture of UW Tacoma in mind. “Diversity is particularly important to UWT in terms of how diverse it is in the needs of its students. [There are many] different types of people here for different reasons.” He said that currently, ASUWT is “too focused on people who spend more time on campus” and that it’s “really important for me to make an extra effort to reach out to people who maybe can’t participate even in person.”

Computer Science major Peter Pentescu is also running for ASUWT president, and expressed a similar concern for disability access everywhere on campus, including a plan he would be “proud to lead” to  reform the current disability requirement at UW Tacoma. He further explained that in order for the campus to recognize a disability, students need to go to outside doctors and spend sometimes thousands of dollars in order to be accommodated at school. In terms of his goals in office, he said that the “fundamental purpose for ASUWT is a place for students to bring their problems and have it represented at higher levels.” He spoke about how he would address the student body: “I feel like the most important element is engaging ourselves and being responsive to the community, so I try to embody that in ASUWT.” Pentescu said he would work to overlap the many committees of ASUWT to better serve students, saying, “I feel that tuition and similar stuff is a concern for every student on campus and its being civically responsible to take those concerns up to Olympia to bring lawmakers here to advocate for students on that level.”

Presidential candidate Jacob Merton, a double major in computer engineering systems and computer science, said that hearing from the Tobacco Free Alliance made him “think about the needs that people have” but didn’t state any specifics about issues he would address as president. Having been involved in clubs and two committees at community college, he said he has some experience necessary for the role of president.

Scott Campbell, running for vice president said that the “inclusion of students and their involvement with ASUWT” is something he would work on to create an environment where students can “come to us with any problem that they have. Being not just a leader but a mentor or friend at hand is really important.” Having spent most of his high school years in student government, he said that he “loves the experience of being able to help people and put things together,” and that representing students takes on a responsible “higher calling.” For Campbell, the “ultimate payback is the reactions on people’s faces at events and being able to give back to the school.”

Stupid Rules are Stupid

Back in my home state of California, I worked as a barista at a Seattle’s Best café inside of a Borders in Long Beach. The district supervisor who oversaw our location irritated me more than burning myself on the steaming wand.  He issued us dumb rules, which were detrimental to excellent customer service.

We could not ask the customer “What size?” for drink orders.  We were supposed to say “Medium or large?” as if the small size never existed on our menu.

Customers loved our cookies, especially chocolate chip, and customers appreciated that they had the option to have their cookie warmed in our convection microwave oven.  However, under our district supervisor, we were not allowed to ask the customer if he or she wanted his or her cookie toasted.  So we kept our mouths shut, while the cookie, clasped between thongs, made its short trek to the oven, and it’s only during these few seconds the customer can say, “No.  Don’t heat my cookie.”  It would’ve saved precious seconds and been more efficient if we had asked in the first place.

And finally, the rule I found to be the dumbest was that baristas were not allowed to ask customers if they wanted whipped cream on their drinks if the drink’s recipe called for it.  In the past, we had always asked if the customer wanted whipped cream on his or her Javakula (Seattle’s Best’s version of Starbucks’ Frappuccino), Coco Trio, or Javanilla Shake.  The district supervisor’s “Don’s ask” rule for whipped cream proved problematic: What about customers who are allergic to dairy?  Most drinks could be made with soy milk, such as Javakulas and Coco Trios, but the whipped cream was dairy based.  Most of the times, customers roamed nearby in the bookstore, so if the drink was finished while they were gone instead standing at the counter, we had to remake the drink if they had not wanted whipped cream in the first place.

One time, the district supervisor brought along an associate, and the associate ask me what I thought was the most popular drink, and related to that question, what was my favorite.  I said that the Caramel Javakula was my favorite and the one that I thought was the most popular.  But the district supervisor told his associate friend to buy the Javanilla Shake, the most expensive item on the menu, but not the most popular (in my own opinion).  I felt offended because the associate wanted my opinion, not a fake, dishonest answer.

Although he wasn’t my boss, the Seattle’s Best district supervisor was the worst superior I have ever worked under.  He wasn’t always at the café.  Ironically, a good number broke his rules–except me.  I didn’t want to get in trouble; once, he caught me asking “What size?”  But his rules hindered efficient customer service.

Those of my coworkers who broke the district supervisor’s rules never thought twice about what they did.  I asked one of my coworkers who broke the rules why she didn’t follow them, and she responded that the customer always came first.  I agreed.  Customers did come first.  I envied my coworker.  I wished I had the ability to break stupid, annoying rules.

However, there needs to be another approach to serving customers.  Instead of a “customer focused” approach, it should be an “employee focused” approach.  When employees are treated well by allowing them to use their common sense and judgment, they are in better spirits to efficiently serve their customers.  When customers are given the wrong tools, like dumb rules, business efficiency slackens and the business loses money.

 

Illustration by Danielle Burch.

Lack of Professionalism Affects Recent Grad’s Career Paths

It is a generally known fact that many college graduates are unemployed, or underemployed due to the down economy. However, it is becoming more and more evident that one completely controllable factor in recent graduates’ failure to obtain employment is a lack of professionalism. Generation Y is known for its rather laid back attitude. Unfortunately, this does not always translate well to the workplace.

Last year, in the third study of its nature, the Center of Professional Excellence produced the Professionalism in the Workplace Study to chronicle the opinion of managers and Human Resources representatives about young employees’, particularly recent graduates’, level of professionalism.

Ninety-six percent of HR representatives and 92 percent of managers surveyed said that professionalism has a large impact on an applicant’s likelihood of being hired; and, as the study indicates, on their chances of remaining employed. The study defines professionalism as “interpersonal skills, appearance, communication skills, time management, confidence, being ethical, having a work ethic, and being knowledgeable.”

Despite the high value of these characteristics, it was found that a large number of new employees have a sense of entitlement that seems to prevent them from being professional and focused on their work.

Half of HR representatives surveyed felt that young applicants have more frequently exhibited a sense of entitlement over the past five years; this percentage has actually decreased since the initial study was conducted in 2009, however authors attribute this phenomenon to a growing pool of applicants due to the down economy.

Twenty-one percent of managers said the number of unfocused employees has increased over the past few years, and the majority of these unfocused are the  younger employees who have a tendency be distracted by social media, or general Internet surfing and personal communication such as texting.

As we near graduation, and soon to be grads go through the interview process for potential jobs, there are a few key elements of professionalism to remember. Almost more important than the “do’s” are the “don’ts.”

It seems self evident, but the worst interview faux pas are inappropriate attire, being late, lack of preparation, and poor verbal communication skills. If a young applicant makes it through the interview by avoiding the above mistakes, and is actually hired, there is also a list of problems employers see in new employees that often get them fired.

Things such as poor work ethic, poor time management, a sense of entitlement, and a poor attendance were cited by a third of employers as characteristics often displayed by new employees.  These mistakes, especially poor attendance, were the top reasons for dismissal.

Though professional skills are integral in being hired for, and keeping a job, they are not taught in college, or in most workplaces. The study suggests practicing communication and interview skills as well as taking professionalism workshops, or doing internships as the best ways to develop professionalism.

Come Out to Girdy May 2

Every Wednesday at the UW Tacoma’s Mattress Factory, SAB puts on an event known as Washington Wednesday where there’s live music, games, prizes, and many other activities for UWT students to come and enjoy. Coming up May 2nd is Girdy, UW Tacoma’s annual Spring Festival held at the Longshoreman’s Hall. It will be hosted in conjunction with SAB and Washington Wednesday.

The event will be featuring Ben Union, a pop-rock band from the Seattle area as the headlining act. Ben Union has a very energetic vibe. Their songs are politically driven and they know how to pump up a crowd.

Also playing is Down North, a soulful blues-rock band, from the Mill Creek. Down North is a diverse group of guys, bringing soul back to the rock n’ roll genre. This band formed when group leader Anthony and Brandon meet each other from Craigslist and has since formed a super group of members, including their award-winning drummer Conrad Real from the contest “Drum Off”.

Another band playing is the Fame Riot a glam rock band from Tacoma that really defines the word “glam.” Watching this band is like taking a time machine back to the 80s. This band consists of only two members playing a collage of electronica and rock influenced styles.

Village, another alternative rock band appearing, that follows the styles of indie-rock, reggae, rock, and funk. This interesting band in composed of three brothers and one of their best friends.

This show has a huge variety of music that practically anyone can get into. There is a little something for everyone is this lineup. If you like indie or alternative music you’ll definitely don’t want to miss this show. The doors open at 6 p.m. and Village will open the night at around 6:30. Admission is free to any UWT or SotA student. General admission is $15. To purchase a ticket for this event go to http://girdy.brownpapertickets.com/. For further information on the event contact SAB’s Entertainment Coordinator Nathan Pelland.

The Irresistible Allure of Shoes

I was casually browsing Instagram one night when I stopped in my tracks as a pair of shoes in a photo caught my eye. They were black patent leather flats with a one inch rounded gold plated heel, with a skinny strap over the top and a tiny little bow near the toe. That was all it took for me to go on a hunt to find out where they were sold, if at all anymore. I took a screenshot of the photo and began my search on the Internet. To hell with my research paper; I needed to find those shoes!

Remember the simple days when you would only need to buy a pair of shoes when your old ones wore out or your feet outgrew them? It was nice to have crisp new shoes for a few weeks but the magic wore off after awhile and it was back to focusing on friends or video games or whatever kids cared about back then. You didn’t know that shoes could hurt or that there were shoes other than dress shoes and everything else shoes. You didn’t need multiple pairs to suit multiple needs, just some comfortable athletic shoes that increased your speed and didn’t leave any tracks (shameless “Office” joke, whatever, the series is ending soon.) Fast forward to now and I am a twenty-something with an unquenchable thirst for shoes that cannot be helped. While normal people stumble upon cash when they clean, I find shoes I haven’t seen in months.  My personalized ads on Facebook are of shoes I’ve browsed or bought online. People come to me to borrow shoes and I’ve held vendettas for those who don’t return them. To put this into perspective I will admire a girl’s watch and I will adore her jeans, but I will simply lust after her shoes. I have a growing list of shoes in the back of my mind at all times. I know how much each pair costs and I know where they are sold. The flatforms with buckles from Urban Outfitters, the cork wedges from Nordstrom… the knock off faux leather creepers from eBay… I daydream about having them all, and for whatever reason, it is a comforting concept. As I write this I have three tabs open on Chrome to shoe sites. Missed connections for most people entail seeing an attractive person at the light rail station and not getting to talk to them before they depart. My missed connections are shoes that I’ve waited to buy but aren’t sold anywhere anymore.

The list of shoe addict peculiarities goes on and on and it’s not just me. Celebrity closets are lined with hundreds of pairs of shoes that they will probably only wear only once. According to a 2010 Guardian article, Christina Aguilera has 750 pairs of shoes in her wardrobe and Paris Hilton has lost count and believes it to be around 2,000. There are women featured on reality TV shows that suffer from shoe addictions and even form emotional attachments to their footwear.

The crux of the matter is that you will never own enough shoes. Trends quickly go out of style as planned obsolescence is such a favorite practice in fashion. It’s a never ending cycle of thick heels versus skinny ones. The fashion industry operates in a way that makes the consumer feel like their wardrobes are never quite adequate. Even if I acquired each and every shoe I have ever lusted after, it wouldn’t solve the problem because most of them will go out of style in a matter of time.

I don’t know if this infatuation with shoes will ever end. As of now, I see the negatives in buying so many pairs. It’s detrimental to a college student’s budget, let alone anyone else from any other socioeconomic background. I will strive to remind myself of planned obsolescence or the many shoes I already have whenever my mouse is hovering over the “Complete Purchase” button on a shoe website.

Who am I kidding? I’ve got two pairs on the way.

 

Illustration by Danielle Burch.

Back From the Grave

It’s utter crap that people cease to be amused by dinosaurs. Think about it- dinosaurs are the closest support we have that species of life can emerge on planets of various ecological states. Dinosaurs evolved, ruled the earth, and were then likely obliterated along with the ecosystem that supported them. What came afterward but every species we know of today and, well…us? Plus, dinosaurs are goddamn strange and magnificent. We need to quit growing up sometimes and just be amazed.

Spielburg’s “Jurassic Park” is amazing. It was amazing when watched in a theater in 1993 and because of an added dimension, it’s still plain neat.

The 3-D experience is lacking in some ways. It mostly just pulls cut-outs of characters and elements of scenes and pulls them to the foreground from the rest of the film. It would benefit from something like new shading around the projected figures to give a better overall “tactile” experience. Though considering Spielberg’s intelligent mix of CGI and animatronics, any better enhancement would stop my heart.

What also helps “JP” to endure is that many of the storylines Michael Crichton developed were transferred engagingly to the film version. Dr. Grant grows from discomfort around youth to a near-paternal figure by the end; park creator John Hammond struggles with endearing but obsessive will to introduce a spectacle of wonder to the minds and hearts of people; and the conflict between science as a mechanism for the creation of life versus the power of Mother Nature and natural selection reaches a pinnacle. These themes weave provocatively within the suspense of an amusement park spun out of control.

If you can’t be fascinated by a movie about the real giants that once ruled this earth before your greatest grandmammy and grandpappy were born, then you’re simply cold-blooded. The movie is so good too at portraying these strange beings as a balance between movie monsters that terrorize our imaginations and real, historically evolved beasts of primal instinct and intelligence. As the hunter Muldoon warns when talking about the methodical velociraptor: “They remember.” But not all dinos are prehistoric terrorists. The peace and wonder of the initial brachiosaurus scene is still counted by most that’ve seen it as one of the most enthralling scenes in all of cinema.

If you’re too cool and not into things like colossal life forms, then at least let your mind be blown by the perfect spherical shape of John Hammond’s head. Thanks to the marvels of 3-D augmentation, his dome is round as a fricking orange.

 

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Illustration by Danielle Burch.

Author Tribute of the Month: Hans Christian Andersen

 

Many people seem to associate fairy tales such as “The Little Mermaid” and “Princess and the Pea” with the large conglomerate called Disney. However, many don’t know that fairy tales that Disney reproduce and mass-market were actually written decades ago by articulate writers such as Hans Christian Andersen who wrote the two fairytales mentioned above and many others such as “Thumbelina.” Unbeknownst to quite a few dedicated Disney fans, many of these fairy tales did not usually end happily and were often quite visceral in nature. But we won’t go too much into detail. I’ll save those macabre particulars for another time.

 

Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2, 1805 and passed away in 1875 at the unusually old age (for that time) of 70 years. Although Andersen was a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales. He was born in the town of Odense, Denmark to a fairly educated father and an uneducated mother who worked as a washerwoman. There have been speculations made that Andersen was the illegitimate son of King Christian VII. This has not been proven to be correct but nevertheless King Christian VII took a personal interest in young Andersen and paid for a part of his education.

Andersen’s father had received an elementary education and was the first to introduce Andersen to literature, reading him “Arabian Nights.” Although they were very poor, his father used to take young Andersen to the local playhouse and nurtured his creative side by making him his own toys. Unfortunately, Andersen’s father passed away when he was only 11 years old and he was then sent to a local school for poor children, where he would receive a basic education and was forced to support himself by working as a weaver’s apprentice and then later as a tailor. At the age of 14, he moved to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor. Andersen had an excellent soprano voice. He was therefore accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre but his voice soon changed so his singings days were short-lived. However, a colleague at the theatre insisted Andersen was to be a poet and having taken this suggestion seriously, he began to focus on writing.

Jonas Collins, the same colleague who instigated Andersen to write, also felt great affection for him and offered to pay the expenses for his further education. Under the patronage of Jonas Collins, Andersen attended the Copenhagen University which were formative but difficult years for him. Coming from a humble upbringing, Andersen experienced difficulty adjusting to the bourgeois life in the capital city as well as the competitive realm of the theatre. Shortly after finishing his studies in 1827, Andersen began writing professionally and published his first poem “The Dying Child” in the “Copenhagen Post” in 1827. However, it was in 1835 that he wrote the first installment to his famous collection of short stories entitled “Fairy Tales.” His first attempts in writing fairy tales were rewrites of stories that he had heard as a child but Andersen bought this genre to a new level by writing a variety of fairy tales that were both bold and original. Initially, the fairy tales were not recognized in the literary world because they were often difficult to translate therefore many critics at the time failed to understand Andersen’s dark humor that was prevalent in many of the fairy tales. However, at the time he was receiving acclaim for his novels “O.T.” and “Only a Fiddler” published in 1836 and 1837, respectively.

1845 was a pivotal year for Andersen bringing him due recognition for his collection of fairy tales with the publication of four different translations. Andersen continued to write fairy tales and published them in installments until 1872. Andersen’s romantic life was wrought with heartache because he often fell in love with unattainable women and was refused many times by his love interests. Instead of spiraling into depression, Andersen harnessed such affections and incorporated them into poetry and many of the novels that he later published. He was also a great friend to fellow literary mastermind Charles Dickens. The two respected each other’s works and had similar depictions of the poor and underclass in their writing through related experiences during the Industrial Revolution.

In the spring of 1872, Andersen fell out of his bed and never fully recovered. Soon after this incident he started having signs of liver cancer and passed away in 1875 in the home of his close friend in Copenhagen. At the time of his death, Andersen was treasured internationally and a statue was made of him in Copenhagen. His stories laid the groundwork for other children’s classics such as “Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame and “Winnie the Pooh” by A.A. Milne because they allowed the gradual flourishing in the genre of children’s literature. In many parts of the world, especially the West, his fairy tales remain immensely popular and are widely read. Andersen’s birthday is celebrated as International Children’s Book Day and a $13 million theme park was built in Shanghai in 2006, commemorating the writer’s life and fairy tales. In the U.S. many statues can be found of Andersen in places like Central Park in NYC and Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

Andersen is truly a celebrated writer around the world because he was a man who overcome poverty with humility and dignity and introduced the literary genre to the inspiring magic of fairy tales.

 

Illustration by Danielle Burch.

The Glitchology and Urban Legends of ‘Pokemon’

When the “Pokémon” franchise was still in its infancy, we had access to the Internet, but not in the same way we do today. It wasn’t a thing kids I knew spent a lot of time with. You would often learn about Easter eggs (special features hidden in games by their developers) in various games from strategy guides or word of mouth. The latter of which was obviously not as reliable.

When I was fairly young, my aunt shared some Easter eggs for “Pokémon: Red Version” that she had found on the Internet with me. These all required that one had collected all 150 Pokémon (151 if we’re counting the elusive Mew), and so I couldn’t verify a single one until I had found each one. I spent a good chunk of my childhood catching all of them, and when I finally did, I was pretty psyched to see “Mewthree,” one of the special legendary Pokémon rumored about on the Internet.

The rumor turned out to be just that: a rumor. All I received for my trouble was a lousy in-game certificate; it wasn’t even an item you could use. I was very disappointed. Interestingly enough, however, Nintendo recently unveiled a new Pokémon to be seen in the upcoming “Pokémon X and Y” which strongly resembles Mew and Mewtwo. Perhaps the legendary “Mewthree” will exist after all!

There was also the first generation rumor that one could find Mew under the truck that could be found if one hacked their  cartridge or used a cheat engine of some sort. The truck was off the coast of Vermillion City, on the same screen as the S.S. Anne, though not visible from the dock.  The problem with this theory was that even with a Gameshark, there was no actual way of lifting the truck, and thus no one could prove Mew was underneath it.

And then there are the more creepy rumors. Many players speculate that the Pokémon, Cubone, is the orphaned child of a Kangaskhan. Since Pokémon don’t seem to die of natural causes, the mother of the soon to be Cubone would have had to have been killed in some way. After the mother Kangaskhan had died, the child would wear the mother’s skull, and thus a Cubone was born. This theory is supported by the similar appearance of the Kangaskhan baby to Cubone’s, and Cubone is also known as the “lonely Pokémon.”

Not all rumors from the first generation of Pokémon turned out to be false, however. The most well-known and useful glitch in are the “Missingno/M Block” encounters. To see “Missingno” in one of the first generation games, the player would speak with the old man in Viridian City, then fly to “Cinnabar Island.” Once there, the player would surf along the right-hand edge of the island, up and down, until the glitch Pokémon was encountered. The benefit to this was that seeing “Missingno” in the wild caused the item in your sixth inventory slot to be duplicated to a ludicrously high quantity. This could be performed on rare candies to quickly level up a player’s Pokémon to 100, or to get enough Master Balls to catch any wild Pokémon at will.

Everyone knew that catching “Missingno” was a bad idea. Whenever anyone shared the technique for performing the glitch, they advised against this. I did not heed the warnings of my fellow trainers though, and decided to capture the Pokémon anyway. Upon doing so, I immediately noticed strange changes in my game. Wild Pokémon had their sprites chopped up and then rearranged, and some sound effects sounded off. When I checked my “Hall of Fame” at the PC, the Pokémon stored in its database were all glitched out, and the music changed to a strange ambient song that was not present anywhere in the normal game. I released the Pokémon, but aspects of my game save were altered in an irreversible way.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the strange rumors and occurrences surrounding early “Pokémon” titles. Unfortunately, later installments in the “Pokémon” saga are more well ironed out and do not contain nearly as many strange glitches and oddities as found in the first generation. Still, there will always be rumors.

 

Illustration by Danielle Burch.